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Doctor: Utah employers should not require doctor's notes for sick employees

Posted at 10:36 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 00:36:06-04

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — A South Jordan doctor's office says they are seeing an increase in calls from people needing a doctor's note for work if they're sick because of COVID-19.

That doctor's office has a message for employers: Don't require a doctor's note from employees to call out sick or to return to work. Let them call in sick, and let them return after being symptom free for 24 hours.

During a pandemic, there are extra steps to take for safety. At CopperView Medical Center in South Jordan, one of those steps is letting only patients into the building.

A note on the door says, "STOP. We ask that only the patient come in for their appointment."

Some of those steps are necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But there's an extra step like requiring a doctor's note for work that CopperView explains isn't necessary.

"Our front staff and our triage staff is getting inundated with phone calls on a daily basis, for, 'Can I get a note just to say I can go back to work?'" said Dr. Curtis Andrews, D.O. at CopperView Medical Center.

It appears that many Utah work places are asking employees to get a doctor's note excusing them from work if they are sick, or-- for the opposite reason-- clearing them to come back to work after an illness.

It doesn't seem to matter the symptoms the employee is showing. Dr. Andrews described getting calls ranging from people showing mild allergy or common cold symptoms, to having a more severe illness.

He said the employers want to make sure the employees don't have COVID-19, and want to make sure they can come back to work.

CopperView Medical Center came up with a note of their own to give to patients, outlining the protocol as recommended by the CDC.

"The CDC is recommending patients who are ill, to not go to their doctor's office and request a note," Dr. Andrews said.

The letter explains that requesting a doctor's note is, "contrary to the current guidelines to employers."

"Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work," the note states. "As healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way."

What they're telling patients to tell employers instead, is to let the patient stay home if they are sick, without a doctor's note.

"If they are sick, we just recommend they stay home and that their employer please let them stay home, and not give them trouble," Dr. Andrews said.

Once the employee is better, the letter explains that the employee can return to work once they are "free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants)."

"Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance," the note says. It also asks that employers maintain flexible policies that allow employees to stay home to care for a sick family member.

Click here to see the business guidelines from the CDC.